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Santosh Trophy: AIFF's attempts to use VAR and get a big crowd for semis fall flat on the first day

Riyadh, March 1 (IANS) The All India Football Federation’s (AIFF) attempts to use the video assistant referee (VAR), the FIFA-approved official decision review system, for two semifinal matches of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy failed to fructify and the system could not be used for both matches played at the King Fahd International Football Stadium, here on Wednesday. 

The AIFF president Kalyan Choubey had on Wednesday morning announced that VAR will be used for the first time for a domestic tournament during the Santosh Trophy knockout stage here. He said it would be the first time that VAR will be used in a domestic tournament, adding that they aimed to use the Indian expertise in Information Technology to put in place a cost-effective system.

However, just after the start of the first semi final between Punjab and Meghalaya, the AIFF informed the media that VAR will not be used for both matches on Wednesday.

For the last couple of days, the AIFF officials have also been expressing hope that the matches would be able to attract the Indian diaspora living in Saudi Arabia and they will come out in large numbers to support players from their state.

The hope too did not materialise as less than 100 spectators turned out at the King Fahd International Stadium for the first semi final between Punjab and Meghalaya.

The AIFF had contacted the Indian Embassy in Saudi Arabia to spread the word about the Santosh Trophy matches being held in Riyadh but apparently, it did not work out.

But Kalyan Choubey and Dr. Suhel Ajaz Khan, Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, took pains to explain away the lack of interest from the Indian diaspora here for the matches.

“We had made a lot of efforts to inform the people by passing on the information via our social media channels. But it is too early to expect (a big crowd). It’s only the first step. Also, today is a working day here. I am hopeful that there will be more people on Saturday,” said Dr Suhel Ajaz Khan.

AIFF president Kalyan Choubey and secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran said the Indian Embassy had made a lot of efforts to inform people but the idea will take time to take seed.

There is a measure of interest in Saudi Arabia as the matches are being broadcast live on television and the local media too have reported on the cooperation between the AIFF and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF).

Saturday will indicate whether the idea will actually catch on in the Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia.



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